Time to fertilize your potted plants

It’s second / third week of June and your annual plants such as petunias, marigolds and coleus may need fertilizing this week, especially if they are growing in containers.

Plants in pots have limited root space to search out nutrients so when the early summer growth spurt happens they may turn pale with less blooms as they suffer from malnutrition. Even if you work a slow release plant food into the soil at planting time or use a potting soil that has fertilizer included you can still add a water soluble plant food to your watering can this week and give all your potted plants a shot of early summer energy. Just don’t use more than the recommended amount of any plant food.

Diluting the recommended amount and using the fertilizer more often is better for the plants and you won’t risk excess nitrogen that the plant does not need going into our drainage water.

Your questions

Q. Help! One side of my hanging fuchsia basket has brown patches on the foliage. The other side toward the house looks fine. I also have less flowers on the plant. It was a Mother’s Day gift so I am really going to feel bad if it dies.


B.H., Bellevue.

A. The clue to this mystery is that the half of the hanging basket facing the house is not damaged. This suggests that the other half was exposed to too much sun or maybe a cold blast of air back in May. My guess is too much sun. Move the basket to a shaded spot or an area on the East side of the house that gets only gentle early morning sun. Pick off the damaged leaves as they will not turn green again. You can snip back the dangling branches by one third if they are bare and ugly. Fertilize with a liquid plant food made for flowering plants. Now stand back. In a few weeks of cool shade your fuchsia basket will sprout new growth and look as good as new.

Q. I bought the mini petunias or calibrachoas that you recommended in your column. I used good potting soil and placed the container on my sunny patio. The plants soon turned yellow and stopped blooming. The soil seemed very moist as it rained a lot right after planting. Was the soil too wet?

P.O., Maple Valley

A. Yes, most likely cool, rainy days depressed your calibrachoas as these new plants hate damp soil. This is why it is not recommended to grow them in the ground. They do best under a covered area where hand watering can keep the soil just barely moist and the leaves dry. Another option is to move the pot under cover when rainy weather is forecast. This year I tried a new trick with my newly planted pot of mini petunias. I inserted an umbrella into the center of the container at planting time. I remove the umbrella on sunny days but leave it open on rainy days. You won’t need to pamper your plants much longer. Once July arrives and the nights are warmer and the days are more dry, heat lovers like calibrachoa, coleus and basil will perk right up.

Q. My coleus plants are sending up spikes of purple bloom. My neighbor insists I must pinch out these blooming stems or my coleus will die. I rather like the way they look. Is she right?

S.G., Enumclaw

A. She is half way correct. Letting your coleus bloom will send energy into seed production so the foliage colors will not be as bright and your coleus could grow more slowly. The flower spikes will not cause the plants to die and if you like them, let them grow until the blooms fade then pinch them out. There are no rules when it comes to garden design so grow your plants the way you want.

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